You really can’t say you know a game until you’ve picked up the controller and played it. Seems obvious, but there are some games that have spent so much time in our collective consciousness that it feels like we really have played them, even if we haven’t. The Metal Gear games, for example. Or in my case, Doki Doki Panic.
Here’s another stupid revelation for you: I had no idea how similar Doki Doki Panic was to Super Mario Bros. 2. Oh, I knew that Mario’s journey into Subcon had borrowed liberally from that largely forgotten Miyamoto gem. I knew that the mechanics were largely the same, as were the environments. But for some reason, I had always assumed that the levels were different. Or that someone other than Wart was waiting at the end of the game. Or that the Birdo phenomenon was something unique to the Mario games.
But nope, as these lovely pair of Game Informer hands will tell you, Nintendo even went so far as to essentially reuse the box art for the Japanese version of what they called Super Mario USA. The levels remained intact alongside the enemies, bosses, secrets, and even the character attributes. The only difference is that Mario and company star in place of the original Yume Kojo festival characters, and that they’re running through Mario’s dreams rather being sucked into a book with an Arabian setting. Oh, and the enemies seem to kind of emit a horrible, digitized scream when they’re plunked by a radish. Appreciate the visceral touch there, Nintendo.
And yet, playing it, I’m not upset. I’m not upset that Americans were able to experience a great little game that would never have made it Stateside otherwise. I’m glad that the Shy Guys and Birdo have become firmly entrenched in Super Mario Bros. lore. I’m only sad that the save feature inherent to the Famicom Disc System didn’t come along for the ride, because it was kind of cool that it recorded whether or not you finished each level with all of the characters. It was almost like having Achievements.
But you know, maybe that’s just a super-bonus for taking the time to actually play the original. Going back and playing Doki Doki Panic isn’t about unmasking a ripoff. It’s about going back to the roots of one of the great underappreciated games of our time.